General Posts

Announcing GlobalGiving’s Video Contest Winners!

We’re excited to announce the five winners of GlobalGiving’s first-ever video contest! We received 93 submissions from project leaders around the globe. Our judge at Green Living Project, Laura Knudson, was very impressed by all of the submissions; here’s what she had to say:

Judging the Global Giving video contest has truly been an honor.  There were so many great videos telling amazing and compelling stories with great vision and creativity.  Picking just 5 of the dozens of superb submissions was very hard to do, but in the end the top videos were chosen based on their quality, creativity, and the ability to engage and inspire.  Thank you to every one of you involved in these wonderful programs.  You inspire with your storytelling, and the important work you do. Congratulations to the winners, and to all of you for giving your hearts for a better world!

While making the decision was incredibly difficult, below are the five winners that she chose (they are listed in no particular order).  Click on any of the videos to watch – and enjoy!

Waste Ventures:

Waste Ventures aims to permanently raise 100 waste picker families out of poverty in the next year by providing them with a blueprint for environmentally processing garbage to increase incomes 3x and allow their children to go to school. Visit the Take 100 Waste Pickers in India out of Poverty project. 

Waves for Water:

Surfers travel. They chase waves and travel to interesting places. But, many of these places have little access to clean water. The Waves for Water Karma Kit provides a traveler an opportunity to help. It’s a simple kit containing a filtration system, canteen, fin key, surf wax and other needed items. The idea is simple…you help fund another person to give the gift of water next time he/she travels. Visit the Karma Kit: W4W & Clean Water Courier Missions project. 

More Than Me:

More Than Me Foundation helps get girls off the street and into school in one of the world’s most notorious slums in Liberia, West Africa. We work with community leaders to identify the girls who are at the highest risk of being sexually exploited to ensure that education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, shape their lives. We pay tuition and provide them school lunch. We work with the school and community to make it impossible for them to fail. Visit the 500 Girls Off The Street & Into School In Liberia projet.

Trees, Water and People:

Trees, Water & People (TWP) is driving development in Haiti through social enterprise. Over the past 16 months, TWP has been working to build a sustainable market for clean cookstoves in Port-au-Prince, creating much needed employment & allowing families to safely prepare food, purify water, and save money. The Zanmi Pye Bwa cookstove is designed to be built, repaired, and refurbished with locally available skills and resources, and is currently being distributed by vendors throughout the city. Visit the 1,500 Clean Cookstoves for Haitian Families project.

Meet Kate: 

The Meet Kate Foundation is building a primary school with sport and playground facilities in Ekwamkrom Ghana, providing quality education for 200 children in this small community. This school will have small classrooms and provide the children with computer classes. 20% of these children will be on a full scholarship. We have put several things in place to make this project sustainable, like a 6 acre cacao plantation and a poultry farm. This school will be self-reliant within 3-5 years. Visit the Primary Education For 200 Village Children – Ghana  project. 


Each of the winners will have the opportunity be featured in the GlobalGiving and Green Living Project social media! There were some incredible videos submitted during this contest, and they’re all  featured on their respective project pages. If you’re a GlobalGiving project leader, get your camera ready for our third annual photo contest this July!

Make February 14th Generosity Day

By Shonali Banerjee, Unmarketing Intern

Valentine’s Day, one of the year’s more polarizing holidays, often elicits a whole spectrum of emotions.  The infamous day can leave you feeling loved and content, or sometimes wistful and lonely.  But what if Valentine’s Day could make you feel… generous?  We here at GlobalGiving think it should!  Last year, Sacha Dichter of Acumen Fund posted about rebooting Valentine’s Day and turning it into Generosity Day:

  “We’re rebooting Valentine’s Day as Generosity Day: one day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying ‘Yes.’ Let’s make the day about love, action and human connection – because we can do better than smarmy greeting cards, overpriced roses, and stressed-out couples trying to create romantic meals on the fly.”

Generosity Day embraces many of GlobalGiving’s favorite values: passion for humanity, unabashed generosity and saying “Yes!” whenever possible.  We’re pretty besotted with this video brought to you by Sacha and his Generosity Day co-conspirators – we think you’ll love it, too.

This year, in addition to (or instead of?) the heart-shaped box of chocolates and pricey romantic dinner, give the gift of a not-so-random act of kindness.  Generosity Day should be a day for doing the small things that we always think about but never do– donating the clothes we haven’t worn in years to Goodwill or bringing in lunch for coworkers! You can sign the Generosity Day Pledge here, committing to spend February 14 exclaiming an enthusiastic “Yes!” to all requests for help.

But true GlobalGivers won’t stop there.  This Valentine’s Day, we’re also inviting you to make your Valentine a girl you don’t know. These lovely ladies don’t need jewelry or champagne, but they do need schooling, financial independence and the opportunity to prove how vital they are to their communities.  If you already have a special someone in mind, make a donation in his/her honor! This year, we think your Valentine will be happiest if you give a gift to someone else

Happy Generosity Day everyone – make this one count!

Learning from one another – curating dialogue on Facebook

Do you remember asking a classmate to help you with your homework? Perhaps they owed you a favor because you’d helped them with something else? There are many intellectual, cultural and social reasons for asking friends and colleagues for help, but what is quite fascinating to me is the manner in which we respond to one another. When we engage with others’ success and failures, we learn. Development experts have a buzzword for this type of peer learning; they call it “collaboration.”

At GlobalGiving we crowdsource new partnerships with non-profit organizations that have expressed interest in working with us. Typically we work actively with 500-600 organizations over 2-4 months, through group trainings and individual consultations to help organizations map and grow their networks and building an online fundraising plan. We then invite them to post a project on the site and implement their online fundraising strategy raise funds for their projects. If an organization meets a threshold of raising $4000, from at least 50 donors they are invited to join the GlobalGiving platform. We call this an Open Challenge.

In addition to the trainings and individual consultations for Challenge participants who we call Project Leaders (PLs), we host sessions with fundraising experts and other social entrepreneurs who have successfully leveraged our tools (aha! The peers!).  Several years ago it suddenly struck us – what would happen if we made it easier for organizations to talk to one another?

Facebook turned out to be the lowest common social media denominator amongst Challenge participants, so we created a private Facebook group, first time in December 2010.At first we used it primarily to share fundraising resources, and encouraged people to ask questions about the design and other details of the Challenge.  It was gratifying to watch the conversation start to emerge – people asked and answered questions, others made suggestions  and shared fundraising ideas.

But it wasn’t quite vibrant. We tried something different for the next group we set up for the last Open Challenge we hosted. Here’s what we did differently:

  • Every day during the Challenge we posted relevant content– fundraising tips, links to resources and suggestions for raising funds
  • Regularly asked a variety of questions of the participants
  • Engaged participants that had shown interest by inviting them to share their opinions on a particular question
  • Responded to every single post by a member, with a relevant response
  • Celebrated accomplishments big and small

These tactics were driven by some of our core philosophies:

  • Intention: curating the conversation, and facilitating interaction
  • Relevance: sharing irrelevant information is a waste of time
  • Celebration: fundraising is hard work. 4 out of 10 participants had never raised funds online before, so we celebrated all types of victories
  • Recognition: by acknowledging contributions to the group we encouraged more participation. The emerging dialogue seemed to draw more comments.

Take a look at what happened. In comparison to a Facebook group organized for the previous Challenge in April, relevant posts (i.e. posts that were not just links to their projects, and websites) increased from 8% to 33%. The number of Facebook posts from participants increased from 6% to 24%.

In addition, the content of the conversation changed. The posts and comments covered a range of subjects from ideas for fundraising, potential solutions for questions posed, and reactions to fundraising resources that had been posted. Three out of four posts entered by the organizations resulted in two or more comments.

Wow.  People were talking with each other, and they seemed to find the conversation useful! It was exciting to watch people begin to collaborate instead of just compete. It is heartwarming to see the group celebrate milestones – projects submitted, funds raised, thresholds met.

We will continue to experiment with the way we facilitate these conversations by  making it fun and interesting for members to talk to each other with the upcoming Winter Global Open Challenge. This idea of creating a space for interaction to happen is central to GlobalGiving’s core philosophies. We believe that expertise should be decentralized, and that the possibility of learning from each other is immense.

If you have any experience in facilitating content-driven dialogue online, please do share your thoughts with us. We’re going to keep experimenting, and keep learning.

climbing up the hockey stick

It really is hard to believe that it’s been nearly eight years since the day in Geneva when I met Dennis Whittle.   I went 4,073 miles to meet the guy who would turn the page to my career’s second chapter, when his office was just 3 miles from my house.  Three weeks later I met the other half of the founding duo – Mari Kuraishi.  Needless to say they were smart, direct, and impressive.  So not long after that I found myself toiling along with them and two handfuls of others in that sometimes smelly, often music-filled and always fun office above the thrift store down the street.

One of the first things they suggested I do was to read their business plan.  So I did.  It had, like legions of business plans before it, the classic hockey stick growth curve.  In our case, the unit being donation volume.  According to this plan, we would be at $40 million in annual donation volume, and “pay our own freight” by about 2005.  Um, we didn’t quite make that.  Many slightly less sloped hockey sticks followed.  When things didn’t take off like a rocket ship we tried new things, always led by our two fearless (and in this case that word really applies) leaders.  We tried plan b, plan c, and plan d, always with our eyes on the prize of working to make it possible for great organizations around the world to access funds and for donors of all shapes and sizes to support the causes that inspired them.

So here we are in 2011, celebrating two things.  First, our donor community just crossed $50 million in aggregate contributions.  Second, for the first six months of the year we more than “paid our own way,” covering 103% of our expenses on our own steam.  The business model is different from what was in the original plan.  The mix of donation activity is different from what was in the plan.  The mix of revenue comes from sources not in the original plan.  And we don’t yet feel like that 103% is a lock consistently, but we see the end of the tunnel.

Roles have evolved; Dennis has transitioned off the staff and onto the Board.  Mari runs the day to day with her quiet, determined leadership style.

Why did they persevere?  Ten days ago Dennis wrote a very poignant blog post, made moreso by his mom’s passing just a day later.  The post gives some insight into what motivates him.  Mari  has different, but equally inspiring, motivations as described in this Wharton Blog from earlier this year.

From the perspective of their team, we are glad they did press on.  Because they did, more than 50 million dollars have been contributed to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits around the world who are working to educate children, feed the hungry, build houses, train women (and men) with job skills, and catalyze hundreds of other important initiatives. This past week, a generous donor in Singapore gave the 50 millionth dollar through GlobalGiving to help with relief for the East African famine.  This was possible largely because Dennis and Mari have persevered to build a team and a platform that continue to live up to our mission of “unleashing the potential of people around the world to make positive change happen.”

Why 15% Makes Sense

People sometimes ask me why we charge a 15% transaction fee.  My cheeky answer is, “So I can be sitting here having this conversation with you.”  As Chief Program Officer at GlobalGiving, my job is to make GlobalGiving more valuable to more organizations around the world.  We work with thousands of organizations, qualifying them, supporting them, disbursing funds to them, monitoring their activities, and maintaining an online platform for them to connect with donors.  Work at this scale would be impossible with an all-volunteer team.  Without great people and robust systems working full-time, GlobalGiving does not work.

Could we find a large donor to fund operations, making the ongoing transactions free?  Maybe, but we believe a transaction-based fee is a better idea.  Funders like Skoll Foundation, Omidyar Network, Hewlett Foundation, Packard Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Kellogg Foundation have invested in our effort to make the transaction-based model work, and we’re almost there.  The model gives GlobalGiving a strong incentive to invest in the performance of our marketplace, which aligns nicely with our partner organizations’ goals and the needs of donors – the more funds flowing, the greater the social impact.  We are motivated to build better tools for donors and project leaders, we aggressively court corporate partners, we attract donors through a strong social media presence, we offer free training and development opportunities to our project leaders, and we find innovative ways to demonstrate results.  We strive to earn our 15%, and GlobalGiving only works if we deliver the value.

So, why do organizations decide that 15% is good value?  We connect them with new donors, we provide donor management tools, and for some organizations we save the expense of maintaining a transactional web platform.  For international organizations, the ability receive tax-deductible contributions in a secure, transparent platform is worth the 15%.  We do not charge organizations an up front fee to participate in GlobalGiving, so fees only exist when donations flow, and we’re careful to explain the fee to all prospective organizations.  Donors should feel good giving to organizations on GlobalGiving, because each organization calculates that our platform is worth 15%.  Donors always have the option of covering that 15%, and over 50% do just that.  Donors should expect to receive quarterly updates and can exercise the GlobalGiving Guarantee if the experience doesn’t meet expectations.  We just finished our best year yet, delivering more funding to more organizations than ever before.

That said, our 15% does not work for many organizations.  For organizations that maintain a web site with transaction processing, or have a staff dedicated to donor management, or do not like to accept project-specific funding, GlobalGiving is probably not a good fit, and that’s fine.  If a donor simply wants to fund general operations of a US nonprofit, that donor should give through that organization’s web site or a portal like Network for Good, both of which have lower fees.

Our commitment to this model holds us directly accountable to the donors and organizations connecting on our platform.  Organizations and donors do not have to use GlobalGiving  If we are not worth our 15%, people will stop transacting, and GlobalGiving will not survive.  If we are worth our 15%, more transactions will happen, we will continue to improve the platform, and we might just improve the efficiency of giving to the most effective organizations worldwide.